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Keeping campaign promises

(Note: This was published in the April 18th edition of the Curry Coastal Pilot, as a Public Forum.)

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine it would be so difficult to keep my campaign promise NOT to accept wages and benefits conservatively totaling over $320,000 over a period of four years from a county teetering on financial collapse. Thankfully two attorneys in Bend, Oregon (Daniel C. Re & Bruce Bischof) of The McKenzie Law Group LLC graciously offered at no charge to represent me in keeping this campaign promise. This group is an Oregon For Profit Public Interest Law Firm that represents public officials in the fight to insure that the people, not special interest groups, control the government.

March 18, 2015 during a board meeting Commissioner Smith urged that the county pay all past due health insurance premiums to the Oregon Teamster Employers Trust to bring payments for Huxley current. County payroll staff spoke on conversations with the representative administering the Teamster Trust Plan stating “So he (representative) brought up the option of maybe just creating a dummy Social Security number (for Huxley) …so that the contributions are at least attached to something.” Does this sound like fraud to you?

March 31, 2015 my Position Statement on compensation and healthcare benefits was provided to Curry County legal counsel. a) The county recognizes Huxley is exempt from federal and Oregon minimum wage law and his annual compensation is $10,000. b) Huxley, as an elected official is ineligible to participate in the Teamster Trust Plan.

April 9, 2015 The McKenzie Law Group proposed to legal counsel representing Curry County the options addressed in the Position Statement to resolve the impasse.

April 15, 2015 The McKenzie Law Group returned a packet to The Oregon Teamster Employers Trust that had been sent to Huxley without his consent or knowledge which included Prescription ID Cards.

During my first three months in office I have been extremely tolerant of inaccurate news articles and angry nasty threatening libelous email communication from county officials. That tolerance threshold was exceeded April 13, 2015 when Sheriff Ward went to the home of a law abiding citizen who wrote a Letter to the Editor he believed was critical of him and one of his deputies. The letter was very factual; the citizen has an unlisted phone number and lives out in the boonies. Sheriff Ward arrived at their home without notice or permission or any reasonable cause in a Sheriff’s department vehicle, in uniform and with his weapon holstered.

The nearly 500 word scathing email directed toward me that followed later that afternoon not only lacked any supporting facts but included many unsubstantiated libelous allegations. It was reminiscent of a watching a small child throw a tantrum with one exception. This child carries a weapon.

The statements in the email included “I am disgusted at your dirty tactics…” “…that you would conspire to have someone attack me…” “I think what you did and are doing is despicable.”

April 15, 2015 during a county commissioner meeting Sheriff Ward sat with another deputy for two full hours waiting for the Citizen’s Concerns Agenda Item so he might speak. He continued with more childish unfounded accusations directed toward me. The following statements are taken directly from audio of the meeting.

My response: “Sheriff, when an individual writes a Letter to the Editor there’s a reasonable expectation of free speech. And if an individual writes a letter whatever their point of view is and the following work day after that letter’s published and their number is unlisted; their phone number is unlisted and they get a visit from the Sheriff to speak to them about the subject letter, that is a First Amendment issue, it’s a civil rights issue and I, rest assured there is and there may be more than one, there are going to be formal complaints against you on this issue with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for one. And that’s all I have to say.”

The most dangerous concerning statement Sheriff Ward made was in response to my comments.

“I have a right to reach out to my citizens and inform them of stuff that they accuse us of, so.”

 

Reasons for opposing the latest Law Enforcement TAX Levy

Example: Approximately one third of all residents of Curry County are 65 or older and many are on fixed incomes such as Social Security. In 2014 Social Security increased 1.7 percent.

The 2014/2015 county Master Payroll provided a cost of living increase of 2.8 percent plus a step increase to all eligible members of the Teamsters Union (law enforcement). A step increase is 5 percent. 7.8 % is over 4 ½ times 1.7%.

If the Split-Rate TAX Levy passes as worded:

$2.52/1,000 Assessed Property Value – Unincorporated areas: The current ‘County General’ $0.60/1,000 Tax combined with the new TAX Levy will be 5.2 times greater than the current ‘County General’ Tax line.

$1.34/1,000 Assessed Property Value – Incorporated (city) areas: The current ‘County General’ $0.60/1,000 Tax combined with the new TAX Levy will be 3.25 times greater than the current ‘County General’ Tax line.

$5.24 Million (TAX Levy Revenue Total) 2015/2016: $5.4 Million in 2016/2017: $5.56 Million in 2017/2018;

$1.4 Million estimated to be received by law enforcement in ADDITION to TAX Levy revenue.

$0.6 Million (45% of $1.4 million) currently budgeted for 2015/2016 law enforcement.

$0.75 Million (55% of $1.4 million) currently budgeted for ‘Cash Savings’ in 2015/2016.

$0.5 Million estimated (5 to 7 unfilled positions of 51 total budgeted positions) for ‘Cash Savings’ in 2015/2016.

$0 budgeted to be used from road fund reserves (which currently exceed $30,000,000) for ‘Rural Road Patrol’ 2015/2016; 2016/2017; 2017/2018. Current legislation extending the allowed use of these funds after Jan. 2016 was passed by the Oregon Senate and has been forwarded to the House.

$1.83 Million of the $5.24 Million (TAX Levy Revenue Total) budgeted for ‘Rural Road Patrol’ for 2015/2016 alone.

$5,340,000 Total Estimated Revenue used 2015/2016.

$1,250,000 Excess Cash Banked 2015/2016.

The original ballot language stating “The Board of Commissioners will reduce this tax in any year in which Federal Safety Net Related Payments are received.” was intentionally removed.

There is NO obligation to reduce the TAX.

There is adequate revenue to run county operations through 2015/2016 without using unanticipated Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding recently received.

 

Thomas Huxley

Curry County Commissioner

 

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